BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times August 16-22, 2006
by Philip K. Jason
Tina Wainscott is a Naples girl. As a child, the future novelist made up stories to tell her friends and relatives. She would also, with her friends, script and act out what she calls “mini-movies.” At nineteen, a couple of years out of Lely High School (class of 1983) and taking business courses at Edison Community College, Wainscott (her last name was Ritter until marriage) became more serious about a writing career. She took an adult education course in creative writing, and then she took it several more times. The course, led by Betzi Abram, got Wainscott more focused: she had to turn something in every week, and the criticism helped her develop the tough skin one needs as a writer.
Short stories came first, then the novels. Her third attempt won a prize in a Romance Writers of America competition, and this distinction helped her find an agent in 1993. The manuscript was sold in 1994 and published the next year. The success of On the Way to Heaven led to a demand for a sequel, which Wainscott had already finished, so Shades of Heaven appeared only six months later. Paranormal romance was Wainscott’s first genre specialty, but she has branched out into wider realms, capturing wider audiences with suspense novels, though the romance element is pretty much a constant.
Wainscott’s seventeenth title, Until the Day You Die, will be released in July of 2007. Wainscott describes it this way: “It is about is about a woman who lies to put away the man who assaulted her sister. When he’s convicted, the danger really begins.” Her last novel, In Too Deep came out in October of 2005, so this is probably the longest that readers have had to wait for a new Wainscott release. It’s not that her disciplined writing schedule changed, but rather that the necessary give and take among author, agent, and editor took a bit longer than usual to reach a happy conclusion. Negotiations were complicated because the author decided to try something different – always a risk when readers are enjoying what you are already doing. After Until the Day You Die, the wait for her next title will be a scant six months.
Both of the forthcoming novels are set in New England, though Naples readers interested in introducing themselves to Wainscott’s work may get special pleasure out of the ones with Florida settings. Back in Baby’s Arms features a small Florida Gulf Coast town; A Trick of the Light takes advantage of her life-long residence in Naples; and I’ll Be Watching You fictionalizes Everglades City. This Naples treasure, Tina Wainscott, expects to set another novel in Naples in the not-too-distant future.
Meanwhile, readers can enjoy In Too Deep (set in Miami Beach and environs). The protagonist is society writer Winslow Talbot, a woman who feels that her life is a sham. Her beautiful face is the creation of plastic surgeons after a car crash. Her wealth comes from a generous stepfather who’s funded a life she finds increasingly superficial. When Winslow learns of a hit-and-run boating accident that leaves a young Cuban girl disfigured, she becomes determined to make a difference by helping the child. Of course, this effort leads to trouble. Most of Wainscott’s books, like this one, have been published by St. Martin’s Press, the rest by Harlequin.
Readers can also enjoy Wainscott’s participation in the multi-author “serial novel” I’d Kill for That, recently available in paperback, in which each contributing author wrote a chapter and then passed the manuscript on to the next author, who added her own twists and turns. Marcia Talley conceived of the idea and set forth the basic storyline and characters.
Characterization is the hard part of writing for Wainscott, the real work. The “what if” premise and the plot come to her rather easily. She says that discovering the “what if” is the most exciting part of the process. When the untarnished, uncritiqued inspiration hits this talented author, it literally gives her the chills. Months or years later, after the writing process is completed and the book is in print, it gives readers a jolt as well.
In November of 2004, the Naples Press Club honored Tina Wainscott with a special dinner at which Councilman John Nocera presented her with the symbolic key to the city. She has for some time now had the key to her readers’ hearts.
Keep track of Tina Wainscott at tinawainscott.com. And receive writing tips from her in February when she leads a workshop for the Naples Writers’ Conference at International College.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at firstname.lastname@example.org.